Money to go with the medals

SA brings back inter-club meet, with cash prizes to boot, in bid to revive local scene

Shanti Pereira (centre) bagged gold in the 200m in the SEA Games 2015.
Shanti Pereira (centre) bagged gold in the 200m in the SEA Games 2015.PHOTO: SINGSOC

In a bid to capitalise on the heightened interest in the sport generated by the SEA Games on home soil, Singapore Athletics (SA) is reintroducing its inter-club championships after a decade-long absence.

The two-day meet, on Oct 24-25 at the Kallang Practice Track, boasts a line-up of 38 events.

More importantly, participants can now look forward to monetary rewards - a first in the sport here.

Gold medallists will receive $250, runners-up will get $150 and those who come in third will get $100. Each participant is limited to two events to ensure a fairer distribution of medals and prize money.

Said high jumper Michelle Sng: "While it may not be a big sum, having prize money is a nice incentive for all the athletes."

The overall champion club will receive $2,000 and the trophy shield.

The competition has attracted about 350 participants from 17 of the association's 22 affiliate members. It is a positive start, said SA's vice-president (competitions organising) Loh Chan Pew. "The response has been very good and is exactly what we hoped for. The club scene here was dying and we are trying to bring the clubs back and get them involved."

The annual competition, last held in 2004, was a hit from the 1970s to 1990s because of the intense rivalry among the likes of Swift, Flash, Achilles, Lotto and Police.

That vibrant club scene has disappeared though, with only a handful of clubs truly active and many of the national athletes attached to a select few clubs.

But with the good results from the SEA Games, this was a good opportunity to tap into the positive mood, added SA's vice-president (training and selection) C. Kunalan.

At the Singapore SEA Games in June, the Republic captured nine medals - three of each colour - to record its best showing at the biennial Games for more than 10 years.

Seeing more than 10,000 spectators at the National Stadium cheering sprinter Shanti Pereira to a stunning victory in the 200m - the first by a local woman since Glory Barnabas in 1973 - was evidence that the future of athletics is bright, said Kunalan. Such crowds are almost unheard of for local athletics.

"There are a number of overseas meets for our national athletes to compete in but to widen the pipeline of talent, we need to have more local events and involve the clubs," added the former national sprinter.

The SA has also been taking other steps to develop the domestic scene. In February, it launched the Athletics Club Programme in collaboration with ActiveSG. This aims to create more neighbourhood clubs for track and field enthusiasts to join, which is crucial for identifying and developing promising athletes.

Three branches in Bishan Stadium, Bedok Stadium and the Kallang Practice Track have already been set up with plans to add more.

Clubs welcomed the move to bring back the inter-club meet.

Said Wings president Eric Wong: "Interaction between the clubs has been relatively quiet... Hopefully, this will help create a more vibrant atmosphere."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Money to go with the medals'. Subscribe